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Posted: March 27, 2009
Transforming medical diagnosis with new scanning technology
(Nanowerk News) A new technology which dramatically improves the sensitivity of Magnetic
Resonance techniques including those used in hospital scanners and chemistry
laboratories has been developed by scientists at the University of York.
Ultimately, the technique, based on manipulating parahydrogen, the fuel of
the space shuttle, is expected to allow doctors to learn far more about a
patient's condition from an MRI scan at lower cost while increasing the
range of medical conditions that can be examined.
Researchers have taken parahydrogen and, through a reversible interaction
with a specially designed molecular scaffold, transferred its magnetism to a
range of molecules. The resulting molecules are much more easily detected
than was previously possible. No-one has been able to use parahydrogen in
this way before.
Professor Gary Green, from the Department of Psychology and Director of the
York Neuroimaging Centre, said: "Our method has the potential to help
doctors make faster and more accurate diagnoses in a wide range of medical
"The technique could ultimately replace current clinical imaging
technologies that depend on the use of radioactive substances or heavy
metals, which themselves create health concerns."
The new method will also have major implications for scientific research
because it radically reduces the time taken to obtain results using Nuclear
Magnetic Resonance technology, the most popular method for obtaining
analytical and structural information in chemistry.
Professor Simon Duckett, from the University's Department of Chemistry and
Director of the Centre for Magnetic Resonance, said: "We have been able to
increase sensitivity in NMR by over 1000 times so data that once took 90
days to record can now be obtained in just five seconds. Similarly, an MRI
image can now be collected in a fraction of a second rather than over 100
"This development opens up the possibility of using NMR techniques to better
understand the fundamental functions of biological systems."
Professor Ian Greer, Dean of the Hull York Medical School, said: "This
technological advance has the potential to revolutionise the accessibility
and application of high quality medical imaging to patients. It will bring
significant to benefits to diagnosis and treatment in virtually all areas of
medicine and surgery, ranging from cancer diagnosis to orthopaedics and
trauma. It illustrates the enormous success of combining high quality basic
science with clinical application."
Bruker BioSpin has been one of the first collaborators in developing this
technology for commercial use. Dr Tonio Gianotti, Director and International
NMR Research and Development Co-ordinator for Bruker BioSpin, said: "This
technology has the potential to revolutionise both NMR and MRI methods in a
short space of time."
Dr Mark Mortimer, Director of the University's Research and Enterprise
Office, said: "The rapid development of this research from the chemistry
bench through to measurement opens up many exciting possibilities to extend
this work. The York research team are now seeking partners to help turn this
groundbreaking research into commercial and medical applications."